Interview with Hal Uplinger


Interview with Mr. Hal Uplinger

Winner of a 1989 Computerworld Smithsonian Award
in the Media, Arts & Entertainment Category
for the production of the "Live Aid Concert"

Interviewer: Jon Eklund (JE)
Division of Computers, Information, & Society
National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution
Location: National Museum of American History, Washington, DC. April 7, 1993


What Live Aid was and how Uplinger got Involved

JE: For the record, please tell us what your name is, what your role was in LIVE AID, and your relationship to this award-winning use of information technology.

HU: My name is Hal Uplinger. On the television broadcast of LIVE AID, I served as the producer in the United States. There was a sister concert at Wembley Stadium produced by the BBC in the UK. I was in charge of the American production as well as the international satellite transmission and distribution throughout the world (with the exception of England).

JE: If you could give us an overview of the LIVE AID project... something about how it proceeded after the initial idea and what the final results were, and we'll get into some of the details later as we go on.

HU: These sister concerts between Philadelphia and London were, of course, live, including live inserts. For many countries it was a fund-raising project for hunger. It was a worldwide 16-hour television broadcast utilizing 13 satellites and 22 transponders. It was shown live to a total of 110 countries. For 45 countries without downlink capabilities, we sent a video tape of the show to be played within a two-week period. So, it was broadcast on a total of 155 countries with an estimated audience of two billion viewers plus one billion listeners on radio. The project raised 127 million dollars at that time for hunger relief in Africa basically, in Ethiopia and Sudan.

JE: Could you tell us just a little something more about your background up to the project and... how it happened that you got involved.

HU: My background was that I began my television career with the CBS owned and operated station in Los Angeles, Channel 2, and eventually became the station's Production Manager and Executive Producer. I then went to New York with the CBS Television Network as a producer in sports. It gave me the opportunity to travel quite a bit, nationally and internationally. I became very interested in the international side of broadcasting. Being from Los Angeles I wanted to return there. I made an arrangement after some years with the CBS Television Network to be freelance in sports. Then I could go TO California (Los Angeles) and set up my own company, which had always been my dream.

I did that, got involved with the International Sports Federations, and was one of the Mayor's representatives for the 1984 Olympic Games. I was the city's liason with the International Sports Federations. When Los Angeles received the games in 1984 I met a man named Mike Mitchell. Mike was the number three man on the games behind Peter Ueberroth and Harry Uscher. He was really the financial person in charge. I got to know and like Mike and we became friends. Mike was very interested in hunger and had done some projects for hunger in the Los Angeles, southern California area. After the Olympics, Mike met an Indonesian business man headquartered in London who wanted to fund a company with him. They found that they had something in common besides business, that they were both interested in hunger. This man had given some money to Bob Geldof who had his non-profit foundation called Band Aid.


Bob Geldof and the idea for Live Aid

Geldof was an Irish rock-star living in London, and in October of 1984 he was sitting in his flat in London watching BBC television. A (VISNEWS now Reuters) camera-man named Mohamed Amin had shot some film of the Africans dying of hunger in Ethiopia. Bob was so taken with the story that within days he was on an airplane to go to Ethiopia to see what this was all about. He came back and he wrote a song called "Don't They Know It's Christmas?" He encouraged some of his British rock-star friends to be part of that recording. They sold it at Christmas time and made about... I don't know whether it was ten million dollars or ten million pounds. Then he formed the BAND AID Trust for this money to go to starving people in Africa. Now, what Bob did, which was so important, was that every penny that was ever given to BAND AID, and this included the LIVE AID concerts, none of it went for administrative costs. In other words, he went to people and companies and got them to provide ofice underwriting money so that he could the staff his office, his employees and volunteers, his telephones, faxes, computers, or whatever was necessary, so that no administration money from a gift would go for that purpose.

About this time, Mike Mitchell, through his business contact, met Bob Geldof in New York. Geldof told Mitchell that he wanted to do sister concerts, a worldwide television show to raise a lot of money. Mike then called me from New York and and asked if I could meet him at his house the next morning. At the meeting, Mitchell said "Here's what he wants to do and your job will be to produce the American portion. BBC will produce Wembley, and they will own the English rights, but you have to distribute the broadcast to the whole world". And I thought "That's the most fantastic thing I've ever heard of, of course that's wonderful". That day was May 1, 1985. Then Mike said he wants to do this on July 13, which was ten weeks exactly from that day. I said "That's terrific, let's go get it, let's do it." And, that's how it all came about. I'll never forget the day I met Bob Geldof. I didn't know who Bob Geldof was, My son knew, but I didn't.


Initial Plans & US Program Distribution

JE: I take it from what you said that you didn't have a signed contract for the stadium in Philadelphia.

HU: We didn't have a signed contract for the stadium in Philadelphia. We didn't even know where we were going to be. Our initial choice was New York. We thought that New York and London would be the ideal situation. New York fell out for several reasons. We couldn't go to Yankee stadium, because the Yankees were playing there. We couldn't go to Shay Stadium even though the Mets were out of town. That two week period was designated for some reconstruction in the stands and that was something they couldn't interrupt. The Meadowlands was not available because they were having a World Football Championship game. All of a sudden New York fell out of the picture. Philadelphia gave us the JFK stadium where they play the Army-Navy game, and that's all it's ever used for. So it was available. They just opened their doors completely. The city was just absolutely fantastic. So, we went to Philadelphia.

JE: Now, of course, that is only the beginning as is clear from that list of jobs or tasks that you were handed. I presume you spent this time living with the phone dripping off your ear. How did you decide priorities and what to do first aside from having to get the place? Clearly there was a tremendous technical problem to be solved in a very short time with the hook-ups. How did you do this?

HU: Well the first thing we had to do was see who some of the (production) players were going to be. From a technical production standpoint, I called Tony Verna, a director that I'd worked with at CBS sports. He was excellent because he was creative, number one, he understood the live aspect and the remote aspect. We contacted Lou Horowitz and Sandy Fullerton who are musical directors. They do the Grammy's and all of the big network musical shows. It was something the talent would be comfortable with, having Lou and Sandy direct their portion of the show. We contacted Michael McLees to supervise the technical production. Michael had been the man responsible for that same job on the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. We tried to get the top people in their field wherever we could.


Foreign Distribution

HU(cont): The other part was, how were we going to distribute this show outside of the United States? BBC gave me an office in London, so I had a staff there that could handle Europe. I had a friend, Fred Gilson, who had his own international distribution company. Fred had been an CBS man whom I had known when we were both in New York. So I asked Fred for help. He said he would put me in contact with the right person at networks throughout the world but he would not make the final arrangements for payment. I would have to do that because we were out to get a lot of money. We were out to raise money and we were out to do telethons too wherever posssible. We not only wanted a country to carry the broadcast, we wanted them to carry it for 16 hours. How much money will they give us for a rights fee? Then, in addition, would they do a telethon? How are we going to distribute the broadcast, and how are we going to make those arrangements internationally, and what are we going to do in the United States? I called an old friend of mine, Joel Chaseman, who was the Chairman of Post Newsweek TV who I had known for many, many years. I said "Joel what do I do about the United States?" and he said, "You've got our stations, but call Lucie Salheny at Taft (Broadcasting)." I called Lucie and she said, "This is a great project. You've got 14 stations (Taft) right now. You call Bob Turner at Orbis (Communications) and we'll get him to syndicate it. I'll take care of that."And that is how it happened. Lucie Salhany went on to Paramount and Fox and became the most important woman in television. We syndicated 13 hours in America and the last three hours of the 16-hour show was on the ABC Television Network.


Acquiring Satellite time

HU(cont): Satellites! I talked to a friend in transmissions, Jim Tuverson. He immediately put me in touch with Bill Page of BRIGHTSTAR in New York. Bill started breaking down the entire world-wide satellite system. I went to INTELSAT and said in nine weeks I'd like to have 16 hours of transponder time on all the satellites. They said "We're booked. There's nothing available. You can't do anything like that. Who are you? Are you willing to pay for this?" So I go back to Mitchell and I say "Mike I need $25,000 as a satellite deposit so these people know I'm serious." Mike went out and obtained $100,000 and I think he signed for it personally to get us started. He gave me $25,000 and I gave it to INTELSAT and said "Here's your deposit, see what you can do."


Setting up Shop at Home

HU(cont): Mike then opened an office in the Marina section in Los Angeles, but there wasn't enough room for everybody. So, I took my house in the Pacific Palisades section in Los Angeles and I just had the telephone company come in and put in phones. I moved in desks and took everything out of the living room. My house became the whole American production headquarters. That was a real mistake because the networks would call me throughout the night! Australia and Japan would call in the middle of the night and Europe would call a few hours later. That part it was quite difficult. I've never seen people that were so dedicated! I have to say that everybody on the project came to give. They came to the table to give and everybody did. Those were the basic areas; the satellite, the foreign and USA distribution, the production of the Philadelphia show, the inserts, the segments, the stars, and the coordinating with London that were my responsibility. It was technology and communications on a new wave. The only break I got was at seven o'clock every morning. Tony Verna, who also lived in the Palisades, came over and we would leave the house and go over to Sunset Boulevard and have breakfast in a little coffee shop. Then we would do all of our format thinking on napkins. I'm sorry that I never saved those napkins because we always threw them away. You know, something for the Smithsonian! But Tony was the one who masterminded the 16 hours as far as the format was concerned. So many of the things that we did on LIVE AID were fortunate, because they were the things that are the basis of these shows today. We established it correctly. And what he did was very simple. He said, "If we do a 16 hour show we're going to get lost". What we did then was to design 16 one-hour shows. You can control a one-hour show. You can't control a 16-hour show.


Making 16 One Hour Shows

HU (cont): So, we were always on schedule. One of the things that ABC was so concerned about, was that they wanted the last three hours of the broadcast to air at eight o'clock eastern time exactly. They wanted Phil Collins sitting down at the piano after we were 13 hours into the broadcast. This was how they were goingg to begin the ABC coverage in America. Phil Collins had played in London. We then put him on the Concord to New York and then on a helicopter to JFK. We planned for him to walk onto the stage in Philadelphia and do the same song that he performed at Wembley just a few hours before. As I said, when you do a one hour show, you can pretty well control it. As the second hand was coming up towards eight o'clock - exactly - Phil Collins sat down at the piano bench and the ABC people absolutely couldn't believe it. Now we were lucky he was sitting down right at the second. You can't control those thing that close. It was funny.

JE: You had to depend on some very sophisticated communications technology. It seems quite clear that you found people who had worked with that kind of technology and had a sense of it. Between that and the correct kind of organization that you set up, you were able to do it. But what was the set up for coordinating the clock switching the feeds - that kind of thing? How did you do it?


Coordinating Production

HU: We had different feeds ging at the same time. We had an American show and we had a world-wide show and they were sometimes different. How do you do that? We basically had a live world-wide show without commmercials. We had a British and American show taking that transmission but could cut-away nationally to ask for funds. Sometimes tha American show had to block a certian performer so he could appear (on tape) later on the ABC part of the braodcast. We had hosts for each stage (JFK and Wembley) along with those personalities hosting the world-wide radio broadcast. Ane, we had live musical acts performing throughout the world coming to Philadelphia from over a dozen places via satellite. It was a little complicated. Our major coordinating control point was Philadelphia. Everything, including Wembley, came into Philadelphia before it went TO be seen on the BBC. The stadium in Philadelphia was simply an ideal place control, because there was an area in back of the stadium. We had, I think, 35 trailers there and an entire field of satellite dishes that controled our uplinks and downlinks. We were able to have a place where we could control all communications. From there it simply becomes a logistical situation to put the proper people to handle the proper jobs and to make sure that it all comes together from a master control truck. It was from this master control point that we had a world feed truck and a USA truck. We were feeding MTV as well. Then, of course, with all the rest of the vehicles, there were the video tape units or whatever else was necessary. Our problem was time. We didn't have enough time. Yet the fact that we didn't have the time probably made it possible. I think if we would have had six months or a year, certain things could have fallen down! And there was an urgency to this whole thing. There was an urgency that had been instilled by Bob Geldof: people were losing their lives! Every day people were dying. So, how soon can we get this on the air? How soon can we make this happen? How soon can we get the money? How soon can they get the supplies to Ethiopia and the Sudan in order to do help?


The Pressing Schedule

JE: You were contacted in May you said, right?

HU: May 1st.

JE: May 1st, and then the LIVE AID concert actually took place...

HU: July 13th (1985).

JE: July 13th. Did you set out a sort of to-do schedule for those very few weeks -- you say about ten weeks?

HU: You mean a timeline?

JE: Yeah, something like that. Or, did you...

HU: You know I don't think we even had time for a timeline!

JE: I see.

HU: You know when we signed the contract for the stadium in Philadelphia? We signed it just before midnight July 12th to go on the air the 13th! I mean, there were so many last minute things. Of course the stadium should be signed by then.

JE: Sure, there were rather few bodies and rather many things to do.



HU: Oh, there was too much to do, and so many things fell through the cracks. I had two instances where people had a legal subpoena to stop the show, because we had done something wrong. I didn't have time, and it was my fault. I didn't have time to answer Westwood One, which is a radio network, because they had the rights to about seven of the artists who were performing. They couldn't go on the radio or even anything without their permission. We simply never answered them! I mean who is Westwood One? What's the radio thing? That's not my front burner item. They get a subpoena and they can stop the show. I'm walking with them up to the stage to stop the show and I'm saying: "What's going on here?" and they say "Well you never answered us" and I say "What do you want?". They say "All we ever wanted was to be was recognized" and I said "I'll recognize you! What do want me to recognize? Do you want Bill Graham to say something to the audience and we'll mention something on television?" and the guy said "That would be perfect". "Okay we'll do it." So, we did it and the guy tore up the subpoena and went on. I mean it was crazy things that happened. After that, I got to know the Westwood One people well -- they're wonderful.


Importance of Technology

JE: Had you... had you worked much with a project that demanded technology of this level that is, communications technology, at this level before, or was this at least a little bit new to you?

HU: No, I think the technology I'd been involved with at CBS whether it was NFL football, Championship games or the Super Bowl was always on a lower level. No, I'd never been involved with having the kind of inserts that we had. I mean, we had live inserts from Japan, from Australia, from Russia, all over Europe, all coming in. So, there was a logistics situation there. Something happened on one insert,I think it was from Japan, where we had a satellite transmission problem. So, you cover for that and bring them back in later on. The big logistical part really was when we made the arrangement with ABC. They said, they wanted six particular acts on the three hour network show. And, the problem was, some of these acts were scattered throughout the entire 16-hours.


Working with Concert Scheduling

HU (cont): The reason for the sister concert was the fact that we could do 14 minutes, which was what each act got, in one site and then go to the other place. We did 14 minutes at Wembley while we were setting up at Philadelphia. Came live to Philadelphia while setting up the next act in Wembley. You go back and forth, if an insert comes in you just stop the rotation for a moment and do your insert and come TO it.

JE: There's no break in the action?

HU: Right.

JE: No loss of interest.

HU: Now, what happened is that when we were on the air at eight o'clock at night in America, Wembley was through. The UK started before we did, we came in and did sister concerts and then we went to the end. The BBC just carried our show. We had three hours where we could not set the stage. ABC wanted six particular acts, and some of those acts, half the acts, were earlier in the day. But, what ABC demanded, rightfully so, was that those acts should not be seen earlier on American syndication. So, we had to cover the acts on the American feed. They went out live to the world, but we taped them in America and put them on again that night over ABC.

JE: To come at the end of the ABC segment.

HU: Right, so David Bowie, as an example, was on at two-thirty in the afternoon, or maybe a little later.

JE: So you have to cover in the sister stadium during that time...

HU: Right.

JE: With some other group.

HU: Yes, so the American feed had to have someone to cover David Bowie exactly. David Bowie could be taped and put into the American show, which of course would be a world-wide show that night. So, I remember getting a call from Bowie's office in London, very upset and saying "Why is he going to be on in the afternoon in America and he's not going to be a part of the ABC network?" and I said "He is going to be part of that network. What you have is primetime throughout the world and you are going to be taped for primetime in the United States." They ended up by saying, "Don't let anyone change his time, we want to keep it right where it is." Those were some of the logistical problems we had to overcome.

JE: Was there any new or particularly new or particularly recent technology involved? Or did the ability to do this depend on techniques that were... you know, sort of just coming in, in 1984 or 1985? Or was this primarily switching technology that had been around for a while?

HU: Well, technology is usually in place. It's just up to the people to find a use for it. Quite often people don't think of what they want to do until technology is developed.

JE: Certainly, that's very true

HU: And so the technology was there. Well, without all of that, of course, there never would have been a show. You can't even in your mind think about how you would do something like that, without the technology. The beauty was the proper application by talented people. There was another technology, too. Early on I called Bill Keene, the weatherman at KCBS (Chanel 2, Los Angeles), and asked him to give me the weather in Philadelphia on Saturday, July 13. He came back three days later and said it would be a clear warm (about 90 degrees) cloudless day and probably a thunderstorm the day before (Friday). And that is exactly what happened!


Use of Satellites

JE: The worldwide switching technology, the satellites. You said you had quite a few satellite antennas in Philadelphia. This was for the different feeds and insertions from different places so you were taking feeds from several different satellites at any given, or you were ready to take them from a lot of satellites at any given time.

HU: Yes. We had satellite feeds that would be coming in from the Atlantic and Pacific into the master control. We, of course, had BBC on line all the time. Our other inserts were coming in and there was the American feed that was going out. That's what we had just here in the United States in Philadelphia.

JE: So, you essentially set up your own network for that 16 hours.


Help from AID

HU: MmHmm. There is one funny story that happened. July 13th was the day that President Reagan was operated on, successfully. And it turned out to be not a major operation but, the second in command from AID (Assistance International Development) and a woman from the White House had come to the broadcast. They were, of course, very interested in famine at AID and the White House at that time. We had a lot of news helicopters and light aircraft covering the concert from the air. There was one helicopter that kept flying back and forth through the satellite dishes. The engineers would see a little blip when that happened. The viewer at home wouldn't see anything, but it drove these engineers crazy. They came to me and said, "You know this guy keeps doing this!". And I remember below he had a sign that said "Eat at Joe's" or some type of thing. So I went to try and find the Mayor. I couldn't find him and came back and I called the airport to find out what I could do about this and the airport gave me a number with the federal aeronautical people. I called them and they said 'yes' they knew where these people were landing, but there was nothing they could do about it.

The man was very nice but he said "They have a right to be in the air and there's nothing I can do about it They are not breaking the law. We told the pilot and he just smiles". Then I saw the man I had met from AID in Washington. I asked him, "If the President were here you could control everything in the air couldn't you?" He said, "Yes, of course".I told him my problem, and he said "Well, do you have a telephone?" I said we certainly did. We went down to one of the caravans and he pulled out his credit-card. I said, "If you're going to make a call, I'll be happy to pay for it, just use the phone!"

So he calls Mr. McPherson, the head of AID and tells him what's going on and "of course this is for hunger." I got a call back from the man at the airport or whatever and his tone was: "Would you like everybody out of the air, sir?" And that problem guy was gone not to return. I said "No, as long as they stay out of the dishes it's O.K." That was power. And our engineers were very grateful. Geldof wrote a book, and a year of so after the braodcast we were in Ireland together giving a speech and he said "You should write a book on this, eight chapters is all you need." But, I never wanted to do it. I think that after that's really good to let it go. As if it was a sunrise never to be forgotten.


Uniqueness of Live Aid

JE: Would it be reasonable for someone to see this as a kind of a breakthrough, given all the complexities and, or another way of putting it is had anything like this ever been done before?

HU: No, I don't think so. I think that there had been international broadcasts certainly. There was the Royal Wedding. There's the World Cup. There are the Olympic Games. But, I believe, as far as international broadcasts are concerned, that they are different. The Royal Wedding was seen by a large audience, but mostly western nations saw it. The Eastern or the Oriental audiences were not really particularly interested. The World Cup does get a large cumulative audience, especially on the finals. With the Olympic audiences, it's more of a nationalistic scope because countries want to highlight their athletes. The Olympic production center host many nations and their networks produce individual programs for feeds TO their countries via satellite.

So, from that aspect, the fact that we did a live 16 hour continuing broadcast utilizing most of the satellite transmission facilities that were available in the world at that time was certainly a breakthrough! But, I think the biggest breakthrough came in bringing the world together for a higher cause.


Greatest Satisfaction

JE: Looking back, what are you most proud of about this work, how do you see it's affect on things other than, of course, the obvious benefit to Ethiopia and the Sudan?

HU: I think the greatest satisfaction for myself and the people who worked on this broadcast was the fact that we knew we were bringing at least 40% of all humanity together at one time. We touched the spirit of humanity for this higher cause, and we really came together as one. This is what the broadcasters all felt. The broadcasters had never been brought together. With LIVE AID, not only were we using the technology, but we were bringing the broadcasters, and therefore the peoples of the world, together for the first time. In other words, the saying "think globally, act locally" certainly applies to network television throughout the world.


Value of a Computerworld Smithsonian Award

JE: What did winning the Computerworld Smithsonian Award mean to you and your colleagues? Did it have any value beyond the personal practical satisfaction?

HU: It's wonderful to win an award like that particularly being an American. It's more significant from that respect than any other award we could win, even an Emmy award. The show did win Best Show of the Year in England. The Television Academy would not put it on the ballot in the United States because they didn't know where to put it: Was it a network? Was it Syndication? Yes, yes. So they decided they didn't want to do anything with it. But to be recognized by the Smithsonian Institution, of course is the best honor of all.

JE: You mentioned a number of key people, and clearly, putting that group together was what made this incredibly complex thing possible. Is there anyone else you'd like to mention?


Key People in Live Aid

HU: Yes, there is. With Bob Geldof there was Harvey Goldsmith. Harvey Goldsmith was key in this operation because he is the top musical promoter in England. Of course, we had Bill Graham who was very well known here in this country as our promoter along with Michael Ahern in Philadelphia. Also, here was Howard Zuckerman, heading up our technical, and Eric Moffit who produced the world-wide radio broadcast. The TV producer at the BBC, Mike Appleton, was my counterpart. Roger Laughton was the co-production BBC man who put it all together over there.


Role of Miro Valchek

HU (cont): There was one other person that was very valuable and his name was Miro Valchek. Miro Vowcheck was the head of programming for the EBU, the European Broadcast Union, which is a coordinating point for all the European broadcasters. When I left my meeting with Mike Mitchell on May 1st, I told him that the first thing I had to do was get on an airplane to get to see the BBC and the EBU. The EBU coordinates not only the Europeans, but some of the other networks like Egypt, Greece, and about 50 countries in all. So, with one meeting we could start this ball rolling. I went to see Valchek and I told him what we wanted. He said, "Let me tell you how it works. You will do the show. You will provide us the tapes. We'll give the tapes to our member networks. They will view it. They will edit it down and probably within a three month period will play some part of it."

And I said "Well Mr. Valchek, we are 16 hours, we're live, we're one time only. The only way Bob got all his friends to participate was that it would be a live show with no recording, and we're going on July 13th." He said, "I think you're crazy, but I will try and help you." He not only helped us with the European countries, but he also opened the door to the eastern block countries. He and the EBU were very helpful in making it all work. In addition, the EBU coordinated all the transmission distribution for Europe. Bob Geldof is the reason it all worked because Bob got his friends to participate. And his dedication was inspiring


Ingredients for Success

HU (cont): When you do shows like this you have five elements which we found from LIVE AID have to happen: Talent, Money, People with network production credentials, American distribution, and Foreign distribution. One and two, Money and Talent are always the chicken and the egg. The talent want to know if the broadcast is definitely going to happen. The underwriters such as the corporations and companies say, "We're interested in what you are doing, but who's the talent? Are they signed?"

Bob eliminated that problem because he went to the talent directly (being one of them) and said "Will you do it?" Everyday he would call us and say so-and-so is in, Sting's in, Phil Collins is in, McCartney's in." When Bob called Paul McCartney on the telephone and said "Would you do the show?", McCartney said, "Well, you know, I'll think about it and call you back." Bob said seven seconds later the phone rang and Paul said, "I don't have to think about this. Of course I'll do it. But, don't use my name because I've got a date. I've got a concert somewhere on that date. Let me change it with the promoter and when I change it I'll call you back and you can use my name." And that's what happened.


Relevance of Live Aid to Other Events

JE: Has anyone like SPORT AID learned from your experience? Did they have some of the same elements or, was that generally a somewhat smaller effort?

HU: It was different. We utilized television to start 237 10-K races around the world. We had video feeds from 18 fees from 18 networks. Our production was very simple. However, our satellite tramsnission was more complicated. That broadcast raised $45 million dollars for SPORT AID (BAND AID).

About two weeks after we did LIVE AID, I was in London having dinner with Bob and Harvey and they said, "We're just not going to do any more shows like LIVE AID because there can't be anything like it...Maybe some day but, I don't know when." And Bob said, "You know, the problem with that show is that however we can contribute in the future, whatever we do with our lives, our tombstones are gonna read: Live Aid."


Other Important People

HU (cont): Before we go on, there are several other people I think we should mention. Roland Smith was our host for the television show and the brilliant Sally Fields was on our telethon here in the United States. There was Jack Nicholson, Jeff Bridges, Marilyn McCoo, George Segal and so many others.

But one I'll never forget. We were standing in the compound and a van pulled up which had gone to collect people at the airport. Coming out of the van holding two suitcases is Dionne Warwick. She comes up to me and said, "Where do I go and what do I do?". And did we use her on everything! She opened an act on stage, was an American host on the American feed for several hours, and then went and did the same on the world feed. But that was exactly the kind of attitude that everybody had on this project.


Lessons of Live Aid not Recorded

JE: In either Bob Geldof's book or other accounts of the effort, did anyone sort of get down the kinds of organizational steps, the kinds of fanning out that clearly occurred here. Do you know of anything that does that? Because, what you've described verbally, essentially is a group of key steps, branching steps that made this extraordinary thing possible, and I just wondered if anyone had gotten that down on paper anywhere.

HU: I don't think so, it would be easy to go back and do something like that. The head of ABC engineering, after the show was over, said that the only reason that the show worked was the fact that we had such really good people in every key position that knew exactly what they were doing. They were able to take that responsibility and follow through successfully to make it work. We had no weak links in that fence so that it never came apart. Now we can go back and probably see each of those links and determine how it was put together.



JE: We have as a sort of standard question, whether or not you have any regrets? I suppose in this case it would be things that you might have done differently.

HU: Done differently?... No, I think everything worked. I think that having the operation out of my house was difficult. But there was no room at Mitchell's offices. I never had a chance to get a full nights sleep. I mean I slept during some periods but my mind was always on the broadcast. It was about two weeks after the show that I had my first dream that wasn't about LIVE AID.


The Point the Idea became Real

JE: Anything that comes to mind that you want to add for the record, anything that as we've been talking has popped into your head?

HU: Yes, there is one thing and it was something that I never discussed. Before this interview took place you asked,"When did you know that it was going to happen?", I thought that was very interesting. In addition to our especially produced hunger segments, we taped about 30 one-minute segments with well known people throughout the world. We did a minute with President Carter, with Mrs. Correta King, with Bishop Tutu, with the head of Sony in Japan. We also had a few movie stars like, Charlton Heston and John Forsythe. For sports we had Pele. We wanted some spiritual leaders on the show and yet we wanted to cover as much of the spectrum as we could and not have everyone upset with us.

There was one spiritual master, a Bulgarian who had taught in France for about 50 years. His name was Omraam Mikhael Aivanhov. His philosophy was put into books throughout the world. I don't even know in how many languages. We taped him for a minute and part of his message on hunger was to take the organs of the body and show how these organs have to work together for the human being to live. Which means that we, our organs being the different countries of the world, have to work together for our planet to live. We were looking at the different tapes that came in from all over and I saw his tape. At the very end of his message, Omraam Mikhael Aivanhov turned to the camera, paused, looked into the camera, and said, "This show on hunger will change the world." And that's when I knew the show was going to happen.

JE: Great, thanks very much Mr. Uplinger.